Red Wrath

Chapter One of Red Wrath - A Dark Superhero Thriller

Gerhard Gehrke

9 min.

I was sitting in a bar, brooding and thinking about superheroes.

There was a special on the news all about them. The large flat-screen televisions mounted on the wall should have been showing the Mets game. Instead we got a fawning comedian whose film career had tanked years ago talking across a desk with a Chicago-based vigilante named the Fireball Kid. The show’s guest must have been at least forty, long of tooth for anyone called “Kid.” He was wearing white spandex with an orange flame pattern running down the center, which only accentuated his slight gut. The ridiculous costume wasn’t visible when he ignited, the spandex replaced with a sheath of fire. At least the “Kid” had the courtesy to step away from the host’s desk and activate his powers in the middle of the performance stage. Flame licked off his body, obscuring all his features. The band director sloshed him with a bucket of water, which erupted into steam. Fireball Kid turned as if angered, and then everyone shared a good-natured laugh.

All of this was transmitted via the closed-captioning, as the volume was mercifully turned down to almost nothing. The bar was well over half-full, what I guessed was a standard crowd for a Wednesday night when the Yankees weren’t playing.

“Carolyn?” a man asked.

I perked up. Date was here. I offered my hand across the small table. “That’s me,” I said. “You must be Jimmy.”

Jimmy had dimples and they curled as he smiled. Mid-thirties, curly dark hair a little too long, pasty complexion in need of sunlight. As I looked him over I saw he was doing the same. It was the unspoken game of who lied more in their dating profile. But he didn’t look disappointed.

I was in good shape, better than most. The only thing I worried about was my hard arm muscles, visible because of my sleeveless blouse. Some might find it a turnoff. But he slid in the booth across from me, obviously not deterred.

“You have something already,” he said, nodding towards my club soda and lime.

“Yeah. Gin and tonic.”

“Let me grab a beer.” He got up and went to the bar, checking his phone as he waited. Nice device. Apple, their latest. His jeans and cargo shirt weren’t anything special, but he wore expensive shoes and a wristwatch that looked nice. Probably employed. He also wasn’t a big guy, which worked for what I had in mind.

A perfect target.

When he returned I drank up the last of my club soda. “The beer looks good.”

His face brightened. “Let me get you one.”

“How about one of their margarita pitchers?”

As he turned to go back to the bar I poured three ounces of vodka from a flask into his glass of lager. It killed the head on the beer and almost overfilled the glass. He returned with a pitcher and poured us two margaritas.

I pretended to drink while he had two beverages to choose from.

“It’s a party now,” I said with a wink.

He sipped his beer. He made a face but it didn’t stop him from finishing it and moving on to the margarita. We talked. By talk, I mean he went on about the software company he worked for. I made enough noise that he believed I was listening and interested. Meanwhile on TV, Fireball Kid was gone and a musical guest was bouncing up and down with a microphone in her hand. A commercial for the evening news showed the latest Chronos activity. I had to force myself to return my attention to Jimmy.

Thirty minutes later, my date was talking too loud and laughing at his own jokes. I refilled his margarita glass.

“Do you not like it?” he asked, nodding at my mostly-full glass. His pale cheeks had turned rosy. “I can get you something else.”

“I hate to waste what’s here, but it’s a bit watered down. I hear their Triple IPA is really good. I’ll have one if you will.” The beer was the highest alcohol by volume on their menu.

“I should probably slow down or at least get some food in me.”

“Let’s get the beer and then we can order an appetizer.”

He went and got two beers. While he was up, I spiked my margarita with more vodka and traded glasses. Once he got back, he sampled his beer and nodded approvingly. He waited for me to try mine.

I took a taste and made a face. “A little bitter. Tell me what you think?”

“Better than the lager.”

The flush to his face only darkened as I took conservative sips and he finished both his margarita and second beer. On a second TV, Maid of Honor was helping first responders on the scene of a massive pileup on the Jersey side of the Holland Tunnel. She pushed a flipped Cadillac SUV back onto its tires with ease. Her costume was a flowing white robe that looked like a toga. Several motorists were out of their cars and recording the action with their phones.

When I saw Jimmy was also watching TV, I nudged him with my foot.

“Sorry,” he said. “Always exciting stuff whenever they show up, right?”

“I never miss my supers news.”

Jimmy ordered food from a server but before our calamari plate arrived, I put my hand on his. It startled him. At least he didn’t jerk away.

“Did you drive here?” I asked.

“Uber.”

“How far’s your place?” I knew how to smile with my eyes.

We were out of the bar in minutes, him opening the door for me while trying to call up the closest ride on one of his apps. I didn’t let it show I was wishing he had a car. Too many things could go wrong going back to his place, and any more witnesses besides the bar patrons were possible complications.

He was leaning on me by the time the ride showed up. The woman driving the small Hyundai SUV didn’t notice, just told us to buckle up as she drove to his requested destination.

“Man, I’m loopy,” he mumbled. “I guess it’s been a long day.” He was swooning.

“Just hang in there,” I said softly. Then I whispered some things in his ear to give him motivation.

The Hyundai dropped us off in front of an apartment building. He swiped a key card to get into the lobby and I had to help him make it to the elevator. He was leaning in the corner as we went up to the third floor. He didn’t exit when the doors opened.

“Come on, Jimmy. Almost there.”

I had to get under an arm as we stumbled to his door.

“Don’t feel so good,” he said. “I really should have eaten something.”

“You’re fine. Give me your keys.”

He reached into his pocket but came out with his phone. “This is hitting me stronger than I expected. We better call it a night. I don’t feel so good. I need to call my—”

“I’ll take care of you, Jimmy. No need to call anyone.”

I snatched the phone away. With my other hand I pulled on his belt and leaned in close. Yanked his keys from his pocket. There were a lot of them and I couldn’t figure out which fit the bottom lock. Jimmy’s legs were spaghetti. I took most of his weight as I fumbled for the right key. A door down the hall creaked. An older man and woman emerged and walked past us. One of them greeted Jimmy and stared.

“Hi, neighbors!” I said brightly, keeping Jimmy between me and them so they couldn’t see my face.

“Everything okay?” the old man asked.

“Just a little too much celebrating at the company party. We launched today.”

“Congratulations. Have a good night.”

I watched them leave before trying again with the keys.

He had a nice place, clutter free, with lots of tech toys and a TV bigger than most cars. I flopped him into his couch. His eyes were closed and his jaw was moving, but no words were coming out.

“Go to sleep, why don’t you?” I said as I plucked his credit cards out of his wallet.

I scanned them with my phone. Using a dark web app, I sent the numbers along to a service that would ding each card for a couple grand, splitting it fifty-fifty with me. I’d get a Visa gift card in my P.O. box. The amount of cash he had was barely lunch money, but the score would pay the bills for another couple of weeks. Once the gift cards arrived, I would have rent covered.

His phone was chiming. I couldn’t help but look when a variety of text messages came in, displaying on the lock screen. All the messages appeared work related. Still, it was time for me to go.

I made sure he was sitting upright and breathing normal before I left.

It was about a thirty-minute walk back to the bar where I had parked my scooter. I used the time to clear my head and let the nerves unwind. Once the money came I could pay bills. I also had my sights set on a new reloading bench, if I could make room for it in my studio apartment. But there were a lot of other toys on my wish list: a new scope, a rangefinder, a motorcycle, and a dozen other gadgets. I also wanted more training and range time with my new rifle.

But if I didn’t want to lose my apartment, I had to go to work.

Besides robbing the occasional date, I made money working as a personal trainer and yoga instructor, running a spinning class, and teaching a self-defense workshop for women, where I threw in some Muay Thai moves that my students ate up. A full workload. I got my workouts for free at the gym chain where I taught and saw clients, and I had places I could change and shower while out hunting Chronos. But my secret lair was a studio apartment over in Brooklyn with no room for a weight bench.

By the time I made it back to the bar, it was past midnight. I had a client at eight. Time to get home and sleep. Revenge didn’t put food on the table or a roof over my head.

Visit http://www.Gerhardgehrke.com for a link to continue reading Red Wrath!

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About Gerhard Gehrke

Gerhard Gehrke is the author of several science fiction novels including The Minder’s War series, Nineveh's Child, A Beginner's Guide to Invading Earth, and the YA Supervillain High series. He's written and produced for local TV and currently creates story content for a video game company. When not writing, he can be found hiking the hills and trails of Northern California with his wife, looking for snakes, insects, and raptors to annoy, and poking dead things with a stick. You can keep up with him at gerhardgehrke.com.

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